Should Bordeaux (or the French) have a monopoly on the term “chateau”?

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Another example of outrageous protectionism or justified worries about consumer protection?

Chateau Richelieu, Fronsac, Bordeaux
Chateau Richelieu, Fronsac, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

The Bordeaux producers, or more precisely the Fédération des Grands Vins de Bordeaux (FGVB), the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB, who sent the press release) as well as the Confédération Nationale des AOC (CNAOC) is incensed by a discussion between the EU and the USA on how to use the term “chateau” on wines. They think it is outrageous that e.g. American wine producers might be able to use the word chateau on a wine label even in a case when some of the grapes for the wine does not come from the estates own land but has been bought in, which may happen if the discussions come to a conclusion. (However, they do not really say that the term should be an exclusive to Bordeaux, but it seems not far away…)

“In addition to a misappropriation of a highly reputable French term, it is a competitive distortion against our wine production units as well as fooling the wine consumers”, they say.

I find it a bit difficult to sympathise with this view. There might be an ounce of sense in it but…

There are several American (and other) wine producers who use the term chateau since many years back so this is nothing new. And how many wine consumers really think that “chateau” by necessity means that all grapes come from land owned by the grower himself? Or care?

Then there are other things that might be more worth while to get upset about, that would be more of putting one’s own house in order first. Two examples:

The classification in Bordeaux called the 1855 classification is really just a classification of a building, or a brand name if one prefers. It is in no way a classification of a vineyard or a terroir. There are probably more consumers misled by this than a possible use of chateau on American wines.

Today it is allowed to label a wine made by a co-operative as “bottled on the estate”. This is directly misleading for the consumer, a co-operative is by definition not an estate, and it seems very likely that on top of it this denomination is often used specifically to hide from the consumer the fact that it is a co-operative wine. Misleading indeed.

That would be two causes more worthy of the attention of the FVGB, CIVB and the CNAOC!

What’s your view?

Update: The EU vote on this issue that should have taken place on September 25, 2012, has been postponed. Instead the negotiations will continue. The vote will be done later, at a yet undefined date. (Reports AFP)

Chateau Desmirail, Margaux, Bordeaux
Chateau Desmirail, Margaux, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

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